What lies at the heart of the giant Perseus cluster?
We delve into the centre of this gathering of galaxies
It seems appropriate that one of the most massive known objects in the universe, the Perseus galactic cluster, should also be home to a particularly huge galaxy at its centre. The giant elliptical NGC 1275 is 230 million light years away in the constellation of Perseus and actually consists of two galaxies – one a huge elliptical and the other a small spiral – in what’s known as a high-velocity system.
These galaxies seem set to collide and are moving towards each other at 3,000 kilometres (1,864 miles) per second. This Hubble Space Telescope image shows filaments of cool, mainly hydrogen gas surrounded by gas measuring up to 55 million degrees Celsius (100 million degrees Fahrenheit) in the cluster, which emits strong X-rays.
The Perseus cluster has recently come under the spotlight of astronomers because it’s the source of a particular X-ray signal that couldn’t have come from ordinary matter. It’s thought that an exotic particle called a sterile neutrino, which is related to dark matter, could be responsible. Study of the Perseus cluster, and other massive objects in the universe like it, is giving scientists a better idea of the nature of dark matter.
Image Credit: NASA